by Evelyn Pringle / April 15th, 2009
The promotion of the Mother’s Act is like a rewind of a bad movie dating back to the 1960’s when rock stars were singing songs about “mother’s little helpers.”
Women fought for years to gain acceptance of the fact that many female health problems were real and not symptoms of hypochondria. The psycho-pharmaceutical cartel’s profit-driven invention of an epidemic of pregnancy-related mental disorders will wipe out a century of work toward that acceptance.
Sadly, the end result of this latest marketing scheme will be that the relatively few women who truly do suffer from postpartum depression will not be taken seriously.
The Mother’s Act legislation has already passed in the US House of Representatives. A majority vote in the Senate would represent a major coup for a multi-billion dollar industry.
“Like many of the acts of Congress, the real beneficiary will not be the mothers and their children but the “mental health” workers who will be handsomely paid and the drug companies that are behind this legislation,” says Steve Hayes, the director of the Novus Medical Detox Center, in the center’s July 31, 2008 newsletter.
“The drug store chains will expand more because more people will be hooked on these dangerous drugs,” he points out.
“Doctor’s offices will be more crowded because we know that these dangerous drugs often lead to serious health side effects that will require medical treatment,” he writes.
The advocacy groups battling against passage of the Mother’s Act are nearly equal in number to the Act’s supporters, and include Unite for Life, AbleChild, the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology; Alliance for Human Research Protection; International Coalition For Drug Awareness; Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, Mindfreedom International, and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
Same Old Song and Dance
The Mother’s Act technique has been used again and again in this country. A new sub-group of people is identified as not receiving enough treatment for mental disorders and the drug makers funnel money to front groups to fund the disease marketing campaign and set up screening programs.
The internet is now flooded with reports about the rise in pregnancy related disorders and the places to find treatment. Websites with names like “Postpartum Progress” and “PerinatalPro,” provide links to programs that claim women need screening for postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.
However, nowhere to be found, are reports about the sub-groups targeted in the past and all the depressed and anxious patients who became mentally healthy as a result of being screened and treated.
Dr David Cohen, a professor of Social Work at Florida International University and co-author with Dr Peter Breggin of the book, Your Drug May Be Your Problem, gave a keynote address titled, “Needed: Critical Thinking About Psychiatric Medications,” at the International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health, in Quebec City, Canada in May 2004, and noted the following:
For the past 50 years, physicians in the West have been prescribing psychotropic drugs systematically to hundreds of millions of people to alter undesirable and disruptive emotions and behavior.”
“For the treatment of every single psychological affliction in men and women, in all ethnic groups, from the toddler to the aged, taking psychotropic drugs is now the cornerstone remedy, all other efforts secondary.”
“Despite the reliance on psychopharmaceuticals, however, not even modest improvements in the incidence, prevalence, relapse rate, duration, or long-term outcome of any condition routinely treated today with psychotropics, such as depression and schizophrenia, can be discerned.
Childbearing Years Represent Huge Market
Childbearing years cover women from roughly sixteen to fifty and the Mother’s Act proves the drug makers will go to any lengths to hold onto this market.
“The labels for antidepressants warn of the increased risk of SSRI-induced suicidality in youth and young adults, the women most likely to become pregnant,” Dr Breggin, author of the new book, Medication Madness, points out. “So the drugs not only threaten to cause the death of the mother through suicide but the death of the child through lethal birth defects as well,” he advises.
“The exposed fetus is at risk for a variety of potentially serious disorders, from cardiovascular anomalies to withdrawal symptoms at birth,” Dr Breggin warns.
“If pregnant women feel anxious or sad,” he says, “they should seek counseling or family therapy with the child’s father involved, along with other sources of emotional support.”
In February, with little to no fanfare, the FDA said it was once again evaluating the risk of birth defects of SSRI and SNRI antidepressants due to the number of adverse event reports.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers are rarely told that antidepressants take anywhere from three to six weeks to work, if they work at all. “We know that the natural history of depression means that many patients will improve within weeks whether treated or not,” says Dr David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac.
“The overwhelming majority of women who are prescribed antidepressants are at little or no risk for suicide or other adverse outcomes from their nervous state,” he points out
“Treatment runs the risk of stigmatizing the person,” he says, “as well as giving them problems that they didn’t have to being with.”
“Only one in ten women will likely have a true response to an antidepressant even if they are depressed, so nine women will be subject to the risks for the one who might benefit,” he states.
According to Jonathan Leo, an Associate Professor at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, whose website, Chemical Imbalance is focused on debunking the “chemical imbalance” in the brain myth, the public health argument goes something like this:
“Helping one out of every ten does not sound very good but if you give the medications to 10 million people then you are helping one million.”
“This may be of little consolation to the nine million people exposed to potential side-effects,” he points out.
In December 2008, the FDA announced that anticonvulsants, widely prescribed as “mood” stabilizers, would now carry a warning about an increased risk of suicidality. They are also known to cause serious birth defects.
New Best Sellers — Atypical Antipsychotics
For a decade and a half, the new antidepressants were not only the best selling psychiatric drugs in the US, they became the top selling class of medications.
However, in 2008, antipsychotic revenues, at more than $14 billion, topped all other classes of drugs in the US, surpassing even cholesterol medications. The rest of the world apparently has not gone mad because the US accounted for over $3 billion of the close to $4.5 billion of worldwide sales of Seroquel, the fifth top selling drug in the US last year.
Anticonvulsants were the fourth class of drugs in terms of revenue, with over $11 billion in sales. Antidepressants held the fifth position, earning their makers more than $9.5 billion in 2008.
Like the SSRIs before them, the atypical antipsychotics are now prescribed off-label for everything from mild depression to anxiety to sleep problems to PTSD and ADHD, and for one reason. They are the biggest money-makers. The prices at a middle dose as of April 2009 on DrugStore.com were: Abilify 90 tablets $1230, Geodon 100 capsules $787, Invega 100 tablets $1168, Risperdal 90 tablets $716, Seroquel 100 tablets $839, and Zyprexa 90 tablets $1195.
The drugs were originally approved only to treat schizophrenia and later the manic episodes in patients with bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Health estimates that schizophrenia effects 2.4 million adults in any given year and 5.6 million adults have bipolar disorder.
“The story’s pretty clear, and pretty embarrassing for the profession of psychiatry, which has allowed itself to be led by marketing,” Dr Robert Rosenheck, a psychiatrist at Yale who has studied the expanded use and effectiveness of the atypical antipsychotics, told the LA Times on April 13, 2009.
“We know now what these companies’ strategies are: The number of people with schizophrenia is limited, so the road to profitability goes through soccer moms. They need to market these drugs to ordinary people who have dissatisfactions in life,” he said.
Antipsychotics come with serious side effects, some of them lethal. “The atypicals can cause a severe metabolic syndrome consisting of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems,” according to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania psychiatrist, Dr Stefan Kruszewski.
Diabetes is a major cause of vascular disease and the number one cause of adult blindness, end-stage kidney disease and non-traumatic amputations, according to a 2006 report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
“The atypicals have some of the same neurological side effects as SSRIs,” Dr Kruszewski says. “They also cause tardive dyskinesia, an often irreversible movement disorder.”
“Tardive dyskinesia looks so “strange” or “bizarre,” that it is often mistaken for a mental illness rather than a neurological disorder,” Dr Breggin reports.
“One variety,” he explains, “involves painful spasms of muscles that can literally torture the victim, and another involves an agonizing inner agitation that drives people to move their arms or legs, or to pace.”
“In some cases, the severe pain of tardive dyskinesia causes patients to become exhausted and ultimately disabled,” he reports.
“Tardive dyskinesia occurs at a cumulative rate of 4-7% per year in otherwise healthy patients treated with antipsychotics,” Dr Breggin says. “After taking the drugs for only a few years, 20% or more will be afflicted and older patient have an even higher risk.”
Helpless Children Harmed
There is no way to predict the adverse effects on the organs and bodies of children who receive psychiatric drugs filtered through pregnant and nursing mothers.
A study in the February 2004 journal Pediatrics reported abnormal sleep patterns, heart rhythms, and levels of alertness in babies exposed to SSRIs in the womb. The lead author, Dr. Philip Zeskind, told the Sunday Telegraph: “What we’ve found is that SSRIs disrupt the neurological systems of children, and that this is more than just a possibility, and we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of babies being exposed to these drugs during pregnancy.”
“These babies are bathed in serotonin during a key period of their development and we really don’t know what it’s doing to them or what the long-term effects might be,” he warned.
A year and a half later, Christine K sat in a neonatal intensive care unit and watched and waited as her baby lie in an incubator with tubes and needles stuck all over his body for four days.
After a single bout of psychosis following a traumatic event in her life, a psychiatrist labeled Christine schizophrenic and kept her on Paxil, Risperdal and Depakote for five years. When she became pregnant, the shrink told her the drugs were safe for the fetus. In fact, she insisted that Christine keep taking them even when she asked to go off the concoction six months into her pregnancy after reading that Paxil could harm her baby.
After looking up more information on the internet, Christine decided to wean herself off the drugs in her seventh month against doctors’ advice. However, when she tried to explain that she quit taking the medications long before the infant was born, Christine was informed that he would still have to remain in intensive care due to the fact that he had been exposed to the drugs in the womb early on.
For the first two years of life, the baby would not sleep for any length of time — waking up every two or three hours. For the first three months, his whole body would jump at the least little sound even when he was asleep. He could not suck hard enough to nurse and resisted bottles. For the first year, he required hours of feeding attempts each day to make sure he received enough formula.
He was three last October and still has a strong aversion to eating — “including cake, cookies and all the things kids will normally eat even if nothing else,” his mother says.
“He was well over 2-years-old before he started sleeping through the night,” she reports.
In addition to the extra hospital costs for intensive care, “in the first three years of his life, this child has needed more medical care and doctor’s appointments than my other three children combined,” Christine reports.
In this case, the problems were nondescript. Doctors do not know enough about the effects of psychiatric drugs on the developing fetus to know if or how to treat them. “All I can do is watch and wait and hope they resolve on their own,” she says.
Christine is by no means a supporter of the Mother’s Act. She was scared and worried for a year after her son came home from the hospital but not from postpartum depression, she says. “It was mostly guilt and fear over what the drugs may have done to my baby.”
Drugged into Madness
The drugging cycle with women often starts with a loose diagnosis of postpartum depression. “My daughter was one of those poor souls prescribed an antidepressant for a “possible” case of mild postpartum depression with no warning about the adverse effects of the drug,” says Marcia Christensen of Australia.
“This caused a devastating cascade of events with further prescribing of multiple classes of antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics, Lithium and electro-convulsive therapy,” Marcia recalls.
“She made several attempts on her own life, developed type I diabetes and had her liberty denied over a 3 year period,” Marcia recounts.
Her daughter, Rebekah Beddoe, has documented the family’s ordeal in the book Dying for a Cure, in which she describes her decline from an ambitious, successful career women to a chronic mental patient as a result of being diagnosed with postpartum depression.
After a kick-off with Zoloft, Rebekah was on six different drugs within two years, diagnosed with a myriad of different disorders and feeling like a psychiatric hospital might be her permanent home. Electric shock treatment came in the midst of numerous suicide attempts.
She credits a BBC documentary on SSRIs with saving her life because she immediately recognized that the bizarre behaviors began shortly after she took the first drug. Rebecca decided they had to go and gradually weaned off each medication one by one. It took her 9 months to get off the antidepressant because the withdrawal problems were so severe.
Rebecca and Christine are not rare cases. Mixtures of antipsychotics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants, now used as “mood” stabilizers, are regularly prescribed for the all “anxiety” and “mood” disorders sought to be marketed via the Mother’s Act. Drug cocktails represent dollar signs. A woman like Christine, taking Depakote, Paxil and Risperdal, can easily ring up over $15,000 a year for the drug makers alone in the US.
The doctors make out like bandits as well. “Psychiatry has increasingly replaced psychotherapy with something called “medication management,” which largely consists of symptom assessment and prescription updates,” Dr. Bruce Levine, author of, “Surviving American’s Depression Epidemic,” reports in the August 13, 2008 Huffington Post.
“Medication management typically takes ten or fifteen minutes and is scheduled every two to three months,” he explains.
While psychiatrists bill about half as much as they do for a psychotherapy hour, they can conduct a minimum of four sessions for every one psychotherapy session, he says.
Many psychiatrists do five- or ten-minute sessions, so they can complete five or six in the same hour that it would take to do a psychotherapy therapy session, including preparation and note writing, Dr Levine reports.
“The bottom line,” he says, “is that psychiatrists who offer only medication management routinely make nearly triple the income as do psychiatrists who provide mostly psychotherapy.”
* Article sponsored by the Houston law firm of Vickery, Waldner & Mallia
Evelyn Pringle is an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.